This year, Earth Day is absent the large crowds celebrating Mother Earth’s life. Virtually silent are the usual soundbites in network media telling us we should recycle and carpool, like that is enough to save deteriorating ecosystems that hold together our natural environment. In years past, countless network advertising dollars have gone into telling us what we already inherently know to be true, that we should protect our planet, and not harm her.
Today, the pandemic our world is experiencing gives us all pause. For a moment, humanity has no choice but to reflect upon it’s vulnerability. We are not weak, as human beings. We are vulnerable.
Even amid this pandemic crisis, the corporate agenda is to convince us to shop away our fears as we ignore the warning signs, forsaking actions that we should collectively take to save our world. Mainstream society has conditioned us to think that an inequitable, modern economy is virtually all that is needed to support life.
As Indigenous people, we know this is not the truth. We do not have to fall in line with the status quo, becoming like those looking out only for themselves.
For the past fifty years of Earth Day, the corporations, the politicians and the uninformed have largely shaped the narrative of what the day should be about. But now more than ever, we have to take back that narrative of what truly honoring our Mother Earth is all about. We must collectively act. We must mobilize worldwide and bring back balance between humanity and the natural order of things in order for humanity and all life to survive.
To be sure, we have fifty years of solidarity behind us celebrating Earth Day. The children and grandchildren of those first Earth Day participants have grown into millions of strong souls standing on this side of Mother Earth. The Indigenous, white, black, and people of all backgrounds and economic standings, have stepped up. We must continue to educate, advocate and teach our young people to love the earth as their mother. We must put our money and our energy into a paradigm shift for the greater good. It should not be a crime to oppose the fossil fuel industry and pipeline expansion. We must say no to extractive economies that serve no one but oil executives and their shareholders.
While fifty years have come and gone from the first Earth Day, we do not have another fifty years to get this right. At fifty years old, we can no longer take baby steps or hold back our voice and intention for a more sustainable way of living together. It is our time to act now.
We are going to get through this challenging time together, and an important shift is already happening. We see more and more individuals, governments, and even corporations who are showing growing concern for the environment, and do want to do the right thing for humanity.
This Earth Day is unequivocally the most important Earth Day we’ve shared. It is our moment in this eye of the storm, to find clarity, to nurture action, and to stand side-by-side with each other for the sake of all life. In unity, the greatest acts of humanity have achieved victories, even under great duress. In this moment we must redesign economies and shape new behaviors that leave an abundance for future generations.
Earth Day 2020 is our time to put back into perspective that which we know we must do: Honor the Earth as you would honor your mother.
Andrew Catt-Iron Shell, NDN Collective Organizer, is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Andrew is a grassroots organizer who began his work advocating against extreme health inequity and health disparities of Tribal populations. His work has included place-based advocacy in helping build from the ground up a regenerative community development project on the Oglala Lakota Nation. In his current role, Andrew looks to focus on building strong community networks and hands-on participation for shared victories in protecting mother earth and protection of Indigenous community.